Asparagus is a Greek word that means shoot or stalk. It is one of those vegetables that absorbs flavor well and can be as dressed up or dressed down as you make it. However, because it is delicate, cooking it can seem a daunting task. Not anymore. Roasting is probably the easiest, least fussy way to cook asparagus, and the results are truly delicious. The asparagus stays fresh looking, and there's little chance of overcooking.
The tender tips of asparagus cook more quickly than the stems, which is why when it is boiled or steamed, it can become overcooked and mushy. Roasting is the perfect solution.
Here's a simple way to roast asparagus without jeopardizing the texture of the vegetable. For 1 pound of asparagus, or about 15 to 20 average-size spears, use a large rimmed baking pan, such as a half-sheet pan or large jelly roll pan. The pan should be large enough to spread the asparagus out in a single layer.
- 1 pound asparagus
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Optional: fresh lemon juice
- Heat the oven to 450 F.
- Wash the asparagus in a colander under cold running water. Cut or snap off the tough, woody ends of the asparagus. They will usually snap off right at the place where they become tough or woody. Just gently bend and snap. Discard the ends or save them to use for broth or sauce. Peel the stalks, if desired. Leave the spears whole or cut into shorter lengths. Pat the asparagus dry with paper towels.
- Toss the asparagus spears with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange the spears in a single layer in the baking pan. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt or sea salt.
- Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. The tips should appear lightly browned.
- If desired, sprinkle the roasted asparagus with a little freshly ground black pepper and lemon juice before serving.
- When buying asparagus, you are looking for compact tips that are smooth and round. They should have a vibrant green color throughout the spear and not be unraveled or moist looking. Stalks should be tender throughout. Asparagus that is past its prime is tougher and will not stand up straight on its own. If you are buying asparagus in a bunch, pull out one stalk. If it is limp, skip it. After you've picked the best stalks of asparagus, you should cook them the same day. Because they absorb moisture, they will not keep well and will also lose flavor. If you do need to keep them, they should be stored in the refrigerator and covered with paper towels, not in plastic.
- Use roasted asparagus as a side dish or add it to other dishes, such as this brunch asparagus with cream sauce or this creamy pasta and ham dish.